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Vikings repeat as D-III boys volleyball champs

One of the most difficult things to do in sports is win back-to-back championships, but La Jolla High School’s boys’ volleyball team made it look easy. After winning their first section title in nearly two decades last year, the Vikings did it again by capturing the CIF San Diego Section Division III crown on May 30.

“We had two very different seasons,” La Jolla coach Dave Jones said. “There were a lot of expectations last year because we had nine seniors, all who graduated. This year, we returned only two starters.

“I knew that we had a good shot at making it back to the championship game … but it wasn’t as easy.”

The Vikings were seeded third and earned a first-round bye. They beat Clairemont, 25-15, 25-17, 25-22, in the May 22 quarterfinals, and then topped second-seeded Mar Vista, 19-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 15-12 in the May 26 semifinals.

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La Jolla edged Cathedral Catholic, 25-17, 25-23, 24-26, 25-23, in the championship match. Not only did they beat the bracket’s top-seeded team, but also did it in the Dons’ gym, as Cathedral hosted all the title games.

The Vikings were led this year by setter Tyler Heap, who also stepped into a role as one of the team’s top hitters, and libero John Walsh. Middle blocker Jack Latta emerged as a leader late in the season and into the playoffs. Jones said almost every player on the roster contributed, and he had so many talented players that he often wouldn’t set his starting lineup until after he saw which players were hot during pre-game warm-ups.

By virtue of winning the section title, the Vikings (20-16) advanced to the CIF Southern California regional championship tournament, and were scheduled to host Oak Park, north of Los Angeles, in a Division II first-round game June 2 (after press time). A win there would have them facing the winner of Mater Dei-Verdugo Hills tonight.